The Common Snapping Turtle is found just about everywhere from the Rocky Mountains east in North America. It is more often found in fresh water ponds, lakes, and streams, but it will live in brackish environments. The turtle pictured here lives in a brackish pond on the Outer Banks of North Carolina (Buxton, Hatteras Island). The picture was taken May 10, 2011.
These turtles are ambush hunters, preferring to lie buried in mud with only their nostrils and eyes showing. They do like carrion and plants as part of their diets. There’s a story that police departments have used them to help find bodies – macabre, but possibly effective.
When in the water, snapping turtles are not aggressive; on land they become belligerent and are dangerous to handle. The jaws are powerful enough to take off a finger, and their claws are robust and sharp enough to give someone a serious scratch. Their neck is long enough to stretch to their hind feet, so it isn’t safe to pick them up. Picking them up by the tail can injure them. Getting them to bite a branch, then dragging them may cause damage to the animal and offer a chance for infection to set in, possibly killing it.
This turtle’s shell was about 15 inches long; can’t tell you the weight, but it was hefty! We coaxed it off the road by getting it to chase my husband’s hat – carefully and from a safe distance.
From what I’ve read, this specimen is at the top end of the size range for a wild common snapping turtle, so I think it could be a female heading off to find a nice, sandy spot to dig a hole and lay her eggs. They typically lay from 25 to 80 eggs which take 9 to 18 weeks to hatch. In cold climates, the eggs may over-winter and hatch the following year as incubation depends on temperature.
For more details , you can visit the web sites listed below.